Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Tulane Dean Apologizes for Errors in Law Review Article Claiming Donor Influence on Louisiana Supreme Court
Tulane law school dean Lawrence Ponoroff has written an extraordinary letter of apology to the Louisiana Supreme Court Justices over an article published in its law review: Vernon Valentine Palmer (Tulane) & John Levendis (Loyola-New Orleans), The Louisiana Supreme Court in Question: An Empirical and Statistical Study of the Effects of Campaign Money on the Judicial Function, 82 Tul. L. Rev. 1291 (2008). Eugene Volokh notes that the article
purported to compare Louisiana Supreme Court Justices' voting records with the campaign contributions to them from litigants and lawyers; the article asserted that "some of the justices have been significantly influenced — wittingly or unwittingly — by the campaign contributions they have received from litigants and lawyers appearing before these justices."
Now it turns out that there many of the cases were miscoded — a rebuttal asserts that "in forty of the 186 opinions included in the study, the information about the case on which Palmer and Levendis based their conclusions is just plain wrong, such as how a Justice voted or even if the Justice was on the panel that decided the case."
The authors acknowledge that there were errors; one of the authors asserted that "with all the mistakes now corrected, ... the study's conclusions, broadly speaking, are the same, but the revised study and the revised dataset has not yet been publicly distributed." Moreover, even if the data were correct, the article would still be drawing what strikes me as an unsupported inference from correlation to causation.
Press and blogosphere coverage:
- ABA Journal: Tulane Law Dean Apologizes to La. Justices for Errors in Study of Donor Influence, by Debra Cassens Weiss
- Carnegie Legal Reporting Program: Times Comes Clean About Flawed Report
- Concurring Opinions: The Tulane Law Review & Empirical Legal Studies, by Dave Hoffman
- New Orleans Times-Picayune:
- New York Times: Looking Anew at Campaign Cash and Elected Judges, by Adam Liptak
- PrawfsBlawg: Louisiana SCT Judges: Not So Biased After All...?, by Dan Markel
- Volokh Conspiracy:
- Law Review Article Accuses Louisana Supreme Court Justices, Is Itself Found To Have Serious Errors, by Eugene Volokh
- Law Review Editors, Take Note:, by Eugene Volokh
- Making Data Available, by Eugene Volokh
- Wall Street Journal Law Blog: Dean Apologizes to Louisiana Supremes for Errors in Law Review Article, by Dan Slater